I had to note that April 5 was the two-year anniversary of my employment with this company. It doesn’t mean two years in the same position. Baby steps, folks. Baby steps.
I mark this occasion because only once before have I worked at one company that long, and that was more than 10 years ago.
I was a waiter at El Chico from 1993 to 1995, few months prior to college graduation and throughout my secondary teacher certification track (a full semester of all day, every weekday in the classroom). To this day, I still eat at El Chico (translated “the boy”) and feel good about it. I never once saw anyone do anything unsanitary or malicious (regarding the food or food preparation areas, that is). The Cuellar (say it with me, “kway-yar”) family started this restaurant more than 60 years ago in Dallas, and now it has nearly 100 locations (in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and other southern states).
Those were lean years for me and the missus. I sold my Fender Jazz bass. I sold many music CD’s (and that was back in the day before you could rip them before heading to the pawn shop — at least, if the ability was there, my 286 running DOS and I didn’t know about it — and before you could sell them on eBay for a more decent price. Before I got that 286 as a graduation present, I wrote all my college papers on my trusty Apple IIe and printed them using my dot-matrix printer. But I digress.).
Thank God and all the king’s horses that I got out of the food industry. Back in my college days, waiting tables was about the only way to make any decent money with an English degree in central Arkansas. We didn’t serve alcohol, so the money was not that good, and for a bonus, I came home smelling like an enchilada that smoked a pack of Marlboro. Slinging hash, even Mexican hash, was not for me. No, not that kind of hash.
One customer asked me my major. I told him I already had an English degree. He said, “Remind me not to let my son major in English.” Ouch.
I did not spit in his food. If that can’t cause one to stoop to that level, then I guess nothing can. Although I never saw backlash, that doesn’t mean it never happened. I advise all of you never to insult your server. In some dishes, there are all kinds of places to hide a big, nasty loogey. It amazes me that as angry as I saw some of my co-workers, I never saw or heard of a food-tampering incident. Then again, I never worked in fast-food, which truly is thankless. (The man might have had a bit of a point, but that’s not the point, so stop pointing.)
If you were my customer from 1993-1995, then you can stop waiting on that tea refill and go ahead and stiff me on the tip. On that note, before you decide what to tip somebody (unless the service was terrible), find out what the pay rate is for wait staff in that area. Many, like me, make three or four dollars per hour below minimum wage, because they are allowed to accept tips. I can’t count how many ignorant people I heard say, “They make minimum wage, why should I tip them?” Not because the number was very high. I’m just not great at math.
If the wait staff has a bo staff? Then all of the above does not apply. Tip generously without question.
As much respect as I might have for that employer from my distant past, I’m glad that I can say I’ve worked at one place longer than I worked at El Chico. Clearly, there’s something that sets this company apart if my job-hopping self has hung around this long. The benefits are great (nothing comes out of my check for health insurance covering me and my family), and I get all bank holidays off (oops, don’t give it away). Other great things abound, like the fact that more than once it has appeared on Fortune Magazine‘s 100 Best Places to Work list (there, that narrows it down for the stalkers).
Speaking of which, they’re flying me to Durham, North Carolina this month for some training at IBM’s Research Park Triangle location. I’ll be the guy with glasses.
I made up “Thank God and all the king’s horses.” I think it has a future.